As the season has gone past the midway point, let’s take a look at home teams are stacking up in various statistical categories.
The blue bar represents points scored per 100 possessions and the red bar represents points given up per 100 possessions. The difference is the team’s net rating. While three teams enter the break tied in the loss column at the top of the standings, there is a clear winner in offense so far this season. The Washington Mystics are scoring nearly 9 points more per 100 possessions than any other team. Connecticut is the next best offensive team and also tied with them in the standings while having the second best defense. Las Vegas, on the other hand, joins these teams in the standings with a different focus, having the toughest defense by more than 3.5 points per 100 possessions.
Overall, the teams currently in playoff places are the ones with positive net ratings. Indiana may be tied for last place in the loss column, but they have the least negative net rating among teams currently on the outside looking in as their third best offense is offset by their worst defense. The other teams in their predicament struggle in both categories with the next three worst defenses and the three worst offenses.
Change from 2018:
The blue bar represents the change in offensive rating between the whole season last year and this season to date with a positive number meaning an improvement this season. The red bar represents the change in defensive rating between the whole season last year and this season to date with a negative number meaning an improvement this season. The green bar represents the change in net rating between the whole season last year and this season to date with a positive number meaning an improvement this season.
Much has been made about the decrease in scoring this season and this chart clearly shows the difference as Indiana made a solid improvement to their offense and Washington is seeing an incremental improvement, but the rest of the league has seen drops of more than 2.5 points per 100 possessions. Attlanta is the only team with a worse defense, compounding their issues in a season where their offensive output has declined by more than 11 points per 100 possessions, giving them the worst decrease in net rating among all teams. Star absences may also help to explain some of the other teams that had precipitous drops in offensive output. Chicago still has a below average defense, but their improvement in that category from the worst in the league last season helps explain their rise in the standings. Like the Sky, Las Vegas did not have an increase in offense, but their defensive improvement by more than 15 points per 100 possessions to the best in the league gave them the best net rating improvement. Indiana improved in both categories like Washington, but they are still outside the playoff picture and New York’s overall improvement still leaves them short of their postseason aspirations for now.
The y-axis represents the percentage of opponent misses that a team grabs and the x-axis represents percentage of a team’s own misses that it grabs. Teams further to the right are proficient at offensive rebounding and teams higher up are proficient at defensive rebounding. Using rebounding percentage as a measure of rebounding is more useful because it is independent of the number of missed shots. Separating offensive and defensive rebounding helps as well because while defensive rebounding is important for all teams, offensive rebounding is often based on strategic choices by a team.
Connecticut takes care of the boards on both ends of the floor, grabbing the highest percentage of their own misses, a category they were league leaders in last year, and having the second best defensive rebounding percentage. Las Vegas makes it easier on their defense by corralling their opponents’ misses better than any other team. Dallas may grab the second highest percentage of offensive rebounds, but all the extra opportunities have not helped their offensive efficiency. Phoenix rebounds the lowest percentage of their own misses by more than three percentage points, two percentage points lower than their league low from last year. Atlanta is struggling with defensive rebounding despite being above average on the other end of the floor.
Home vs. Road:
Homecourt advantage has been a known effect in basketball for a long time so it should come as no surprise that every team has a better net rating at home than on the road so far this season. The blue bars represent the difference in points per 100 possessions scored at home. The red bars represent the difference in points per 100 possessions give up at home with a negative number meaning a better defense at home. The green bar is the difference in net rating at home and teams are listed in order of how much more efficient they are overall at home. Atlanta is the only team with worse offense at home, but only by a slim margin while Phoenix is the only team to play worse defense at home. The disparity is so strong that only Washington and Las Vegas have positive net ratings on the road. Given the teams different performances depending on venue, there could be insights to be gained in the playoff chase by how many games teams have left at home.
Los Angeles could be poised for a strong rest of the season, having battled through a schedule with more road games than anyone else. With twice as many home games left as road games, they should be in good shape even though their homecourt advantage is only about average and they will continue to not have their full roster for a number of games. Chicago has the most road games left of any team and while their offense has been about the same everywhere, their defense is worse on the road by a wider margin than any team. Unlike the other two top teams so far, Connecticut plays poorly on the road, sitting in the middle of the pack in net rating away from home. At home, they have the second best offensive and defensive ratings, only behind Washington on offense and Las Vegas on defense, thus giving them the biggest overall homecourt advantage. While they look to be outside of the playoffs, Dallas will still be on the hunt for their first road win, but their struggles are clear as they have a positive net rating at home, which explains their 5-5 record there, but the play worse on the road by the second biggest margin.